Named after a ski resort in the French Alps, Méribel brings some Alpine flair to north London. The spacious yet cosy restaurant is set under the arches of Camden Road rail station. A collage of colourful wallpapers decorates the ceilings; there are high, bare-brick walls, while a long metal fireplace adds an urban log-cabin feel. The romantic atmosphere may be regularly disrupted by the rumble of trains passing overhead, but that didn’t seem to disturb the many couples there on our visit.
Méribel’s menu offers a pastiche of international brasserie dishes – veal milanese, savoury crepes and fruits de mer linguine. But the main attraction is that speciality of the Savoie, the fondue, for two to share.
A Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese arrived warm and baked in its box – not in the traditional caquelon, a cast-iron pot (similar to a Le Creuset) that’s set on a flame to keep the fondue molten. While this boxed version was perfectly acceptable, we regretted not being able to enjoy the pinnacle of the fondue experience: the religieuse, which is the thin crust of toasted cheese left at the bottom of a heated pot.
The pungent cow’s cheese came accompanied by a selection of crusty bread, fried new potatoes and chicory – the slightly bitter leaves worked well dipped into the creamy cheese. However, the inclusion of Spanish chorizo in the cold meat selection that came with it was an odd choice, and would clearly get a Frenchman’s ‘mais non!’. Still, the dish proved popular with many of the diners – maybe they were aware of the French tradition, where, if a woman loses her piece of bread in the fondue, she must kiss every man at the table.
A dessert of apple tarte tatin brought us down to earth again. The pastry arrived cold, without any trace of the caramelisation that renders this French dessert so distinctive.
During the day, Méribel also operates a café at the entrance. The glass counte at the front holds a selection of panini, sandwiches and coffee and cakes – available as takeaway or inside.